My fish are all gone!

KaraLynn(z9 FL, Inverness, Citrus)October 10, 2012

Yesterday evening when I went out to feed my pond fish not a single one of them were there begging for food like they usually do. I was hoping that something had just spooked them and they would be there today. No such luck. It looks like all of my fish, over 2 dozen red comets, 3 shubunkins, and one koi, have all vanished! I have no idea what happened to them. There haven't been any wading birds around, (would they even be able to clear out a pond 2 1/2 feet deep?) and there doesn't seem to be any signs that racoons have been in the pond. I'm holding out hope that the koi at least, it's fairly shy, is hanging out in the deepest part of the pond and will turn up in a few days. The water is pretty green which means I can't see more then half a foot down so for all I know all of the fish are hiding out down there. I don't think anythings wrong with the water as the frogs seem to be fine and the water fall is still running. It's upsetting to have a pond full of fish on day and not to have a single one the next.

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A great blue heron or great egret could clean you out in no time flat. My bet would be one of the two. My MIL had a great blue in her back yard, too a quick trip to wally world and returned to find her pond cleaned out too.

So sorry. My MIL had to surround her pond with bushes in order to protect it along with hanging random fishing line.


    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 7:02PM
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brute(Florida 9B)

I'm also guessing great blue or night herons. I've seen both species hunting quietly at night. If it were coons or otters, there would probably be scraps of fish scattered around. You might want to shine a flashlight out there in the middle of the night to see if they've come back looking for more. If you can identify the culprits, you might be able to protect your pond better in the future.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 7:22PM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

When I first started my pond in 82 I couldn't keep GF at all due to water birds so switched to tropical fish, Birds still ate them BUT they bred faster than the birds.
In 09 had a complete wipeout due to cold weather so bought some feeder GF. Haven't lost any and am now on the third generation. GO figure . Predators have been the major problem in all these years. Everything from birds to raccoons to small boys gary

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 4:18AM
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I'm also going with the blue heron theory. We have 2 large ponds and those things are very smart, can get into deeper waters, and will clear out a pond if it can. We have found that they often come in the middle of the night (no joke). We have used water scarecrows- they are motion detectors and when it detects movement, will shoot off a strong stream of water around the area, hopefully scaring away any predators. That works with limited results. My husband decided to go the net route for his larger pond with the large koi. We have some pretty big ones now and it is a lot more emotional and financial stress if one of them dies. The net is inexpensive and is working very well. We can still see the fish and feed them, but predators can't get to them now and they are much happier.

Our smaller pond is netless, but has the water scarecrow. We only have goldfish and platys in that pond (along with water lilies and wild frogs), so we'll see how it goes.

I really feel for you. I know how upset my husband would be. I hope you can find a solution and restock.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 5:40AM
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I am so sorry you lost all your fish. Hope you can find out what got them.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 6:11AM
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Awww, I'm so sorry. I know what it's like to lose a goldie. I have a 200 gal indoor tank with orandas, ryukins, celestial eye and bubble eyes, a 55 gal with comets (5, one per 10 gal) and an outdoor pond that I've drained because of the herons. They'll devastate a pond in a matter of an hour or so. Those birds are HUGE, like sandhill cranes and eat a lot.

When I lived in Marathon, we had a great blue heron that came up to us out of the blue one day with TWO hooks in his throat. He allowed us to cut the hooks away and stayed with us for years after that. He could, however, eat pounds of fish as we were cleaning and filleting them.

I'd go with netting. It annoys night predators as well. Fish that will come to a person will come to a coon too!

I hate you had to experience that. Nessz is right. It hurts to lose them when they're big, once you get to know their personalities and NAME them.

I gave up on the pond, had my hubby sketch my fish and had them tattooed on, lol...much less work and fewer tears.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 8:18AM
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KaraLynn(z9 FL, Inverness, Citrus)

I kept watch as long as I could before going to bed last night to see if anything would come back but since I have to get up at 6 am to get ready for work I couldn't stay up too long. My brother who lives with ma a generally stays up longer also kept watch, his room is on the sames side of the house as the pond. Neither of us saw anything. I've had those fish or their parents for about 3 years now but was only attached to the shubunkins and the koi. The koi I bought this spring and he had already more then doubled in size and was a real pretty mottled orange and black. He's the one I will miss the most even though he was pretty shy. The red comets all came from the 27 cent feeder fish I bought at walmart when I started the pond.

The plants around the pond are pretty thick except for by the waterfall and by the sidewalk and none of the look trampled so I'm pretty sure the culprit has to be a bird. While I don't live anywhere near water I do have an acre and a half retention ditch across the street from me which has had a lot of water in it off and on all summer. The frogs breed in there like crazy which attracts the wading birds. Usually I don't see anything but the smaller egrets and herons but with the water staying longer I can see it attracting the larger birds. I'll have to look into how to best protect the pond from future attacks. The net sounds like the best option but with the way the plants are set up I can only get at the pond edges at the ends.

This is what the pond looked like last year. I've been working on taking out the umbrella sedge behind the waterfall in order to expand the waterfall and add in a biofilter to help clear up the water. The area at the bottom of the picture where the white mini zinnias are is now covered in stones to give me easier access to the pond. The waterlilies didn't do as well this year but I think that's because I rather badly shocked them when I was cleaning the pond this past spring. Any ideas for how to best guard against birds when I can only access the pond from the ends? The ponds about 11 feet from end to end.


    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 8:27AM
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That pond looks like easy pickings to me. My MIL's pond that was wiped out is in the middle of farm crops and cattle farms in the middle of the state, not near any significant body of water either.

Less obtrusive method would be to string some monofilament fishing line that will deter them from getting in there. They won't risk getting tangled in it.


    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 8:38AM
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Oh Kara, I sorry for the loss of your fishies! I do agree with most of the posters here that it was probably a heron. They are relentless when they discover "easy pickins" like our ponds. I had a blue heron wipeout half of the fish in my pond last winter. And to make it worse they would kill fish that were too big for them to swallow and leave them laying on the ground next to the pond! Nets, fishing line and scarecrows [be sure to move the scarecrow often!]are your best lines of defence but are hardly pleasing to look at. And they are not guaranteed to stop the herons.

I would wait a couple of weeks before restocking the pond in hopes that the birds would move on but in my experiance once they find you they will continue to return.

Good Luck

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 9:22AM
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Kara, to make netting easier, you can put a few stakes around and have the net go around the stakes. Does that make sense? In other words, the net will be elevated above the pond, except where the bird might be able to get under, in which case you would have the net reach the ground somewhere. I'll see if I can get a picture of our set-up tonight and post that.

I can warn you that if you do net your pond and you have any fish that tend to jump, get the net up higher. We had several platys that would get stuck in the net and die.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 3:50PM
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No words of wisdom about the disappearing fish, but I wanted to say that your pond is beautiful.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 4:18PM
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KaraLynn(z9 FL, Inverness, Citrus)

Susan, I'll make sure to wait to buy the fish although it is very tempting to just go out and buy at least a few common goldfish. I already miss seeing them swim around begging for food. The plan is to have some type of netting set up before I put more fish in the pond.

Ness, I would love to see a picture of your set up! I gave up on the platys as they didn't seem to help with my algae problems so that shouldn't be an issue.

Can anyone tell me what type of netting I need to get and where to buy it?

I'm already picturing in my head the hire wire acts the lizards in the garden will be doing on the netting! They seem to love the pond.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 4:23PM
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I haven't quite learned how to do multiple photos in a post yet, so I'll post twice.

This first one is a clear picture of how the net is set up on the bigger pond. It's much more aesthetically pleasing from other angles, but this is the best way of seeing the net.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 4:24PM
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I'll ask my husband about the netting, but I think he just got some very cheap netting from the landscaping section of a Home Depot or Lowes. He said it was very inexpensive and came in large rolls.

Here is the second pond with the scarecrow (black object in lower left corner). This is what my husband uses for the platy/small goldfish/lily pond.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 4:27PM
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Those ponds are gorgeous, what a shame the birds took the fish... maybe the Extension Agent would know what to do, or a commercial pond Co., seems they must also have the same problem.. also places like public gardens, Disney, etc. all have ponds and might have suggestions...maybe a narrow bridge over the pond where the net could be attached? sally

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 5:10PM
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tomncath(St Pete Z10a Heat 10)

Kara, that pond is absolutely beautiful, cudos!

I'm sorry for your loss and not certain my suggestion will be helpful but as one who only has experience with salt water fish tanks and observational predatory habits perhaps shelter is the answer. I'd think fish would seek shelter from predatory birds inside pipe, if so you could buy 10' sections of black vented drain field pipe from the big box, cut it into 2-3' sections and insert two of them through the openings of two concrete blocks dropped into the pond - without an anchor this plastic pipe is light and will float so some sort of anchor will be necessary if you decide to try this. If algae doesn't obscure the blocks from site you could always put some pond baskets on top of the blocks and nest plants in the baskets for camouflage and additional ambiance ;-)


    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 7:57PM
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Oh my, I was so focused on examining your photo from the birds perspective I didn't even notice how gorgeous it is! I love the idea of the black pipe on the bottom of the pond for the fish to hid in.

Kara, it would be a shame not to have fish back in that pond, it is so complete.


    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 8:52PM
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babalu_aye(zone 9b - St Pete FL)


Sorry that you lost your fish. I know it can be frustrating. I've got a small pond too. A few years ago we had a problem where a Great Egret would stop by and take goldfish.

I did two things which solved the problem:
1. I made it deeper. It is now about 3 ft deep.
2. I strung some mono filament line above the pond. This was easy to do due to the location of my pond between the house and a privacy fence. I put eye hooks in the top of the fence and also in the fascia of the roof, and then cris-crossed the line between the fence and the house. It is high enough that I can walk beneath it without getting tangled. The large birds won't come underneath the line for fear of getting snagged in it.

The nice thing about the mono filament line is that you can barely see it so it will not take away from the aesthetics of your pond.


    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 5:41PM
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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake

I will have to keep that mono-filament idea in mind for if/when I put in a pond for my wife. Does it have to just the mono-filament or can you train a vine to grow across the line for a green canopy? Or would that ruin the effect by giving the birds a sense of shelter and security as they prowl the pond's edge?

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 12:38PM
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KaraLynn(z9 FL, Inverness, Citrus)

I do have a black plastic crate in the deepest part of the pond that has a pot of waterlilies on top of it. It's a decorative crate that I bought at walmart with all different size holes in it. I'm not sure if the biggest of the fish could have fit in it but I know that all of the mid-size and smaller fish could have. I can cut a larger hole in each side of the crate and run some of the black tubing through it. I even have some of the tubing just laying around.

The ponds already 2 1/2 feet deep so I'm not sure how much another 1/2 foot would help but at this point I don't have the time or resources to make the pond deeper. I wish I had a way to rig up the mono filament line like you've described but with the way the garden is set I don't think that will be possible. Here's another picture of the garden from last year. The pond is right in front of the porch and that part of the garden forms a triangle that narrows down to a point where I was standing when I took the picture (The garden looked really good this year so I have no idea why I have no more recent pics to share!).

I've done some research on the netting and can get enough for my pond for about $25 so I'll probably be ordering some in the next few days unless I come across something I like better. Once the netting is in place I can start looking for new fish! Since I'm starting all over I'm going to be a bit pickier as to what fish I get. More shubunkins and fancy goldfish instead of so many common goldfish.

One thing I have decided though is when my family asks me what I want for christmas a heron decoy for the garden will be at the top of the list! Not only would it look neat it should also help deter other big wading birds from coming for a visit.


    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 4:45PM
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keiki(10 FL)

Sorry to hear this Kara. I lost a huge koi a few weeks back. It broke my heart. I swore I wasn't naming them this time and went a full 2 years before I told anyone her name. I have lost fish before and have found a few things that work pretty well. I built a hiding place for them, which was just a piece of black granite for them to hide under up against the wall. My pond is preformed so I made "legs" for the granite table out of bricks. There is enough room for them to swim in and out but not enough for say a coon or bird to get in. This worked for 2 years until someone or something knocked it down. I have restacked it and added an ugly motion sensor light. So far so good.

I have a concrete egret I got for $3 he is pure white and I am thinking I need to paint him and put him out by the pond.

We just got home from vacation yesterday and I checked the pond and chickens last night and all looked good. This morning one of my chickens is missing. I searched for 2 hours wondering if she somehow got out. Heart breaking!

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 9:43AM
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Your pond is very beautiful, Kara.

You might want to be careful with a heron decoy. I have heard that they don't have a huge effect on the birds and a decoy can even *attract* birds during mating season.

I'm posting a link as a funny example (not so funny to us that have a pond, but still!).

Here is a link that might be useful: Blue Heron Decoy Video

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 5:17PM
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